Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said Monday Prime Minister Imran Khan has given the permission to resume train services in Pakistan on the condition that standard operation procedures (SOPs) were adhered to as the country battles the novel coronavirus.
Rashid, addressing a press conference, said: “No one will be allowed on the train stations without having a ticket. Nearly 7,000 police officers have been deployed at [the stations in] Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, and Quetta and an emergency has been imposed.”
Police officials, he added, would ensure that people do not enter train stations without tickets.
“If there is a violation of the SOPs in any division, then the division head will be held responsible and action will be taken,” the federal minister noted.
Rashid said a “rehearsal” had been scheduled at all train stations tomorrow (Tuesday).
“If the conditions are stable in the month of May, then all train services will resume across the country from June 1,” Rashid, said, adding: “I am grateful to [NDMA Chairperson] Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal, [Federal Minister for Planning and Development] Asad Umar, [Advisor to Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue] Hafeez Shaikh, in this regard.”
The railways minister said that he would visit Peshawar tomorrow to review the measures taken, while day after tomorrow he would see off the green line.
He said that he would also review the situation at other train stations as well to “ensure” that SOPs and other safety measures were being followed.
“I have no differences with the provinces in this regard,” he said, adding: “We will need their support outside the railway stations or else we can deploy our police personnel as well.”
The railway minister informed that there was no age restriction for the passengers and that he was supervising all the procedures himself.
“We bared losses worth Rs5 billion per month due to the closure of train services,” he said.
There have been no changes in the freight of the services, he said, while noting that India had “doubled the fare”. “We have not reduced the fares because the number of passengers have been cut but by 50%,” he said.
Rashid refuted rumors about a “conspiracy” being against the federal government and said: “You should ask those who came here for conspiring and now their name is in the black list and will be soon in the Exit Control List.”
The minister said that the political atmosphere of the country would change after Eid-ul-Fitr. “I do not expect a change in the National Accountability Bureau Ordinance and even if there is one, I won’t support it.”
Sindh to allow resumption of train operations
On Sunday, Sindh Minister for Transport Awais Qadir Shah in a statement said that the provincial government will not allow train operations in Karachi.
Shah said the provincial government was worried about its public, however, all Rashid cared about was the railways. “If train operation kicks off, it will be very difficult to control the coronavirus,” he said. “Karachi is a very big city, where people of all the provinces reside.”
He added if train operations resume, there will be a rush at railway platforms. “Rashid is more interested in train operations than public health. Sheikh sahib if you are not dependent on provinces, the provinces are also not dependent on you,” Shah added.
The provincial minister further said that Eid was just around the corner and if train operations were resumed, coronavirus cases in the country would increase to 0.1 million.
“If we resume train operations after 15 days, people will climb aboard roofs of trains (for travel) and then the public will taunt me that Rashid is responsible for spreading the virus,” the minister told the media.
Decision to resume train services taken without consulting Sindh
Transport Minister Sindh Awais Shah said the decision taken today to resume train services was without consulting Sindh and demanded that the federal railways minister, Sheikh Rashid, should resign if SOPs were not followed.
“We are not against resumption of train services […] If the intuition is facing a loss will it be compensated with the lives of the people,” Shah said.